BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN
The LGBT community played an outsized role in Tuesday's Democratic sweep. Constituting 5 percent of the electorate in 2012, the gay community went 77 percent to 23 percent for President Obama. If you do the math, the number of LGBT voters who chose to re-elect President Obama exceeded the margin of votes separating him and Mitt Romney. That means that our community delivered the election to the President.
Eloquent commentators from Andrew Sullivan to Matt Yglesias have all seen this as part of a larger trend toward the emergence of a modern American electorate that is less white, more Hispanic, younger, and fairer than before. Their words are, as usual, worth a read.
There's more to the story, though. Both the increase in gay voting numbers and the increase in our already heavy Democratic tilt, together with a sweep of the four states voting on the freedom to marry and the elections of the openly gay candidates across the country, have a lot to say about the role of gay identity in modern politics. It is not simply, as Richard Socarides said, that today, supporting gay rights is no longer the albatross it was in the 1990s and, instead, is a banner to wear proudly. He's right, but that's too simple. Nor is it simply about gays being liberal. There are a lot of gay conservatives, but being conservative and voting Republican are two different things.
Our victories on Tuesday prove the hollowness of the gay Republican talking point that gay identity is tiny in politics. For all the talk that gay people want jobs, too, and for all the chatter about the economy being of supreme importance no matter who or how you love, the idea that our identity as gay persons does not mean that equal rights are more important to us than, say, our concerns about the debt is simply not true. Gay Republicans and gay conservatives risk irrelevance if they stick to the notion that "being gay is only a small part of who I am" and then proceed to endorse candidates who are anti-gay in the traditional sense. Being gay is who we are. It tints the way we see the world and how we interact with others. It informs our vote, as well.
We need gay Republicans. We need them to talk with fellow Republicans, to teach them that gay people are good, moral, upstanding citizens, who love their country, each other, and their children. We need them to push their party's leadership away from "legitimate rape" and away from "it's wrong on paper" to a mainstream party -- like the Tories in England -- who support the freedom to marry not in spite of their conservative principles, but because of them. But, voting for a Republican who wants to rescind their rights because gay Republicans are more concerned with other things than being gay is at once wrong -- by all accounts, Mr. Romney's tax plan and proposals for spending trillions the military did not want would add to the debt and raise taxes on the middle class -- and foolish. No one will respect them until they respect themselves.
This election showed that gay social identity is predominant in determining our political identity. If they ever hope to attract more of our community, even the conservative among us, to the Republican fold, gay Republicans should take heed, drop the canard that being gay doesn't matter, and embrace the importance of equality.
I explain exactly what I mean, AFTER THE JUMP...